Tag Archives: travel writing

I’m Bored!!!

Those of you who regularly read my blog will know that I recently returned home to England after two and a half years of travelling.  I’ve been back for almost four weeks now … and I have to admit to being rather bored.  Whilst that might sound silly, when I’m always talking about writing, I have to admit that one of the things that gives me writer’s block seems to be having lots of time on my hands!

I write best in certain circumstances.

1) When I’m physically travelling – on a train or a bus.  Probably because that means I can’t distract myself with the internet!

2) When I’m really really busy – because somehow then I’ll actually find time to write in my few spare hours!  Give me too many spare hours, and I’m the queen of procrastination!

The thing is, over the past few weeks, I’ve realised there is one type of writing that I’ve been able to commit to, and that’s short stories.  Lack of work has driven me to entering writing competitions with big cash prizes!  So far I’ve finished off a story written by a best-selling author … in a genre I would never normally write.  And then I was asked to use my imagination and write a story based on ‘a secret’ for woman&home magazine.  Because of the average age of the magazine’s subscriber’s, I decided to write a story from the perspective of a middle-aged mother – again a very different tale to the ones I normally write.  And both of the stories were short stories, a genre I haven’t experimented with since I did my GCSEs.

I promise to post both these competition entries up on the site, as soon as I know I’m allowed to.  (Both entries are contingent on the stories never having been published before).  However, I wondered if anyone fancies helping me relieve some boredom and exercise my ‘writing muscle’ …

I noticed a suggestion on another blog to write a story about a ‘strong female lead in a vampire situation.’  I’m not gonna lie, I’m rather over vampires and teen fiction, but could be persuaded to write a short story, or a scene.  And I recently really enjoyed Elli Writes’ competition to write an entry based on ‘Rebirth’.

So I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for a short story.  Literally name your parameters – maybe you’ve got a couple of things you want to be included in it, or a paragraph you want me to carry on, or a situation you want me to write about …

Whatever it is, post your story prompt below, and I will endeavour to write a response to it!  And if you’d rather write a whole story than post a story idea, then take on some of these story ideas, and then when you’ve finished your story, post a link to it below, and everyone can read it!

If you need somewhere to start, we could all try our hand at Maria Kelly’s writing prompt –  ‘to write a strong character in a vampire situation’?

Make sure you let her know if you use her idea, and also add a link on this post so the blog readers can check it out too 🙂

So come on … get me out of my bored grump, and give me something to sink my writing teeth into … or give some of the other blog readers something to think about.  Let’s make the most of our big community of ‘nearly-there’ authors!

C-C xx

3 Comments

Filed under C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

I’m an Honorary Chick!

Huge thanks to 4 Chicks and a Muse, for finding the story behind how I got into writing inspiring enough to make me an honorary Chick on their blog! You might remember that a few weeks ago the Chicks wrote a response, ‘An Author, A Writer, What Am I?’ to my post ‘So Am I an Author Yet?!‘.

Each week the girls post a personal  ‘Chick Story’, focussing on how women in the arts discovered their passion, and I feel very privileged to be the focus of this week’s story.  Thank you girls 🙂

Check out my story HERE, and feel free to tell me, and all the Elementary Circle readers, how you discovered your passion in a comment below 🙂

C-C xx

1 Comment

Filed under C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

Unreadable!

The problem with this blog was that it wasn’t meant to be a real blog!

Initially it was designed to be a platform to spread the word about my fictional work … and then ‘So Am I an Author Yet?!‘ got Freshly Pressed.

‘So Am I an Author Yet?!‘ was originally just a commentary running parallel to my fiction work.  An excuse/explanation/apology for having the nerve to call myself ‘author’ in the website blurb!  But once people started reading and appreciating my non-fictional ramblings, I felt a certain obligation to continue.

The problem is, my life as an unsigned author, is a rather limited topic.

I really don’t want this blog to be a journal.  I don’t think my readership want to be hearing the intricacies of my every day. (Though hopefully you all found Tales of a Starving Artist entertaining enough) Instead, I want this to be a forum for discussion about writing.  Not just my writing.  But writing in general.

So the first part of this blog post is a plea … are there any writing-based topics you’d like me to discuss? Please add them as comments and I’ll try my best to come up with something – like the ‘Getting Represented‘ piece I did in response to everyone’s questions about how I found an agent.

The second part of this blog is a rant about magazines.  Which I actually touched upon in my recent rant about Work Experience.

I love to read.

And I love the idea of magazines.

And yet these days I’m finding magazines less and less reader friendly.  Which I think is ironic, seeing as almost every magazine these days carries a self-conscious advert about how reading a physical magazine is way more rewarding than reading things from a computer screen!

Take Vogue, for instance.  I was flicking through it yesterday, and counted 150 pages until I got to a CONTENTS page???!!!  Then maybe another 30 until the first page of Anna Wintour’s editorial, which spanned three pages, and yet was separated by at least five more adverts.  I understand that Vogue is about the clothes as well as the writing.  But please give me something to sink my teeth into when I turn the cover.  I can’t stress violently enough how much I detest having to flick through page after page after page before seeing a word which isn’t a brand name.  It’s frankly ridiculous!  Fair enough, advertising is necessary in the print world.  But firstly actually pretend that the writing is important, by placing the contents page, and a couple of articles BEFORE the ads (or better yet putting all those ads at the back, so you can flick through them out of choice), and secondly, if you are making as much as we know you are making from advertising fees … then charge the reader less!!  Why should I have to pay an arm and a leg for the inconvenience of flicking through almost an entire magazine before I can read so much as a sentence?!

Vogue isn’t alone in this failing.  It’s simply the most ridiculous example of the cult of magazine advertising.

And then there’s another Conde Nast flagship title.  Vanity Fair.

Now Vanity Fair has writing … and articles which I love.  And actually a rather sensible smattering of advertising.  But what irks me about Vanity Fair, every time I open the cover, is the extremely unaccessible page layout.  Surely a magazine of VF’s grandeur will have spend thousands, if not more, on analysis of its readership?Surely a graphic design agency, and a market research team, and God knows however many other teams of analysts will have researched exactly how best to present the amazing variety of choice articles and interviews that only a magazine of VF’s calibre can gather.

So why on earth is the layout so awful?

I’m sorry, but it really is.  The font is too small, the layout frankly dull! No matter the title, or topic of an article … I find myself tirelessly flicking through the pages, because they don’t capture me.  The best example of this is when I’m at the gym.  I love to read magazines when I’m on the treadmill or the cross-trainer.  I’m most probably ruining my eyes, I know, but it’s the perfect minimum effort brain-food, when you need a distraction from the physical pain of your work-out.

But VF isn’t suitable brain food … because it’s NOT eye-candy! The font size used is so small and insignificant that I find myself practically falling off the exercise machines while I squint at the pages.

Now I’m no graphic designer, or market research expert … but I like to read.  And I like to read magazines.  And I know that the kinds of magazines I like, use large fonts and brighter colours to draw the eye in.  That doesn’t mean they’re mere picture books … in fact, if you go back to my criticisms of Vogue, you’ll realise that’s the last thing I desire …

I simply want someone to catch my attention.  I don’t want to force myself to have to read!

Anyone else in a similarly disgruntled boat???

C-C xx

PS No I won’t be applying for Work Experience at either Vogue or Vanity Fair 😉

8 Comments

Filed under C-C Lester, General, Writing

The Author, The Journalist and The Blogger

Not to be confused with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 🙂

In one of my first blog posts, ‘So Am I an Author Yet?’ I discussed what I felt the distinction was between being a writer and being an author … and my conclusion was that it really seemed to simply boil down to self-confidence.  When what you have achieved as a writer, on a personal note, makes you feel like an author.

After all, it’s really just semantics.  As I explained in my response to one of the comments, when I was a law student at university, I was called ‘a lawyer’ and yet I was years away from practicing law.  And so by the same token, ‘author’ is a word, which can be applied to a variety of stages of writer – we simply have a tendency to attach considerable creative weight to it, and so as a writer, the privileged term ‘author’ is a state you hope to attain.

In the various comments made about the post, many people suggested that you only become an author when you are ‘published’.  However, a number of people also noted that because of the role the internet now plays in our lives, being ‘published’ is a far easier and less meritocratic feat.  You simply have to click a button, to have your work out there in the open.  I did so a matter of minutes ago, when I copy and pasted a chapter of my most recent book – The Dream Navigator – into a blog post.

And so, whilst I might be rather liberal in my awarding of the title ‘author’ – in that I personally feel it embodies a personal state of mind rather than being a metaphorical rosette pinned upon your writing, I have to admit to still being rather conservative with the distinction between writing on paper and on the internet.

I know the world is changing.  I know a Kindle can be a thousand books in one, and that words don’t have to physically be inked onto a page to ‘count’.  However, I guess I’m rather romantic in my distinctions between the different classes of writers. Between bloggers, and journalists, and authors.

Don’t get me wrong – all three are valid disciplines.  As a new blogger, a trained journalist, and a wannabe-author, I clearly appreciate all three.

What I am, however, trying to make clear, is that they are all very different things and shouldn’t be confused.  A lot of people seem to define ‘author’dom purely through publication.  But if the internet is a valid source of publication, then the term ‘author’ loses all of its exclusivity.

Maybe I want the best of both worlds.  I want to be able to call myself an author, whilst waiting idly on my hands for a publishing house to acknowledge my talents … but I don’t want anyone who has ever written a word on the internet (does Facebook count? 😉 ) to call themselves authors too!!!

And so, as a writer (the term which I thing encompasses all of the disciplines) I think it’s important to adopt the multiple ‘hats’ metaphor I used in my article ‘The Pen Name’.  It’s not simply a question of recognising exactly what you are writing, but approaching that type of writing with different ambitions, and with a different mindset.

When I write fiction, I write as an ‘author’.  (Or if you don’t think I’m an author yet, because my books aren’t tangible entities, then call me a fiction writer).  I plan methodically (The Secrets to Finishing a Novel), think about the story as a whole matrix, and keep careful track of character development, chronological order, themes and imagery.  As I progress through the story, I feel as if I am carefully tying together the various tassels of a mop, until piece by piece the entire story has intricately come together.

When I write fiction, I am a perfectionist.  I dwell on every word, sound each sentence aloud, and go over and over each and every section.  When I begin a new chapter, I take time to read and edit the chapter that comes before it, and when I eventually send off a ‘first draft’ of a novel to my agent, it has perhaps been edited as many as ten times.

When I have my journalist hat on, my approach is very different.  My word count is normally stricter, and my classical training makes for a more rigid layout.  I focus carefully on my first sentence, rather than my first chapter, and approach each article with a very formulaic need for a start, middle and end.  Whilst these things are obviously just as necessary in a novel, with fiction I am more concerned that the story is constantly moving, rather than rigidly shaping these developments into three clear sections.  I think carefully about words, and keep my tone erudite.

And then there’s blogging.  Now the ‘wordy’ in me, sees the word ‘blog’ and thinks it says it all.  Blogging isn’t an elegant word.  If it conjures any imagery, it’s a little clumsy and unrefined.  And I guess that’s my approach to this discipline of writing.  It’s experimental.  As Carol Rives commented yesterday about my blog post ‘The Writers’ Network’ she uses her blog to develop her writing.

If writing is a sport, then blogging is the training phase.  It’s gym time.  Where you practice that sport outside the comfort of your own home, but still with the safety net of a ‘delete’ button.  You can try out something, and if it doesn’t work, or doesn’t conjure the response you hoped, you can adapt it.  It’s the crash-test dummy phase of writing.

And so my approach to this phase is very different.  I write my blog how I talk.  Obviously I have a slight plan when I begin each post … but generally it’s more just a notion of what I’d like to talk about, and then as I begin to type, my argument, or lack of, begins to form!   Quite often my post names change as the article progresses, and I’m fully aware that none of my entries are overly sculpted or edited.  They are fresh meat in writing terms.  Fodder for debate.

And for me, well I think that’s the perfect use of the internet, and of blogs.  The very nature of a blog allows for change and for constant update.  If you spend too much of your time editing, then you lose out on the immediate nature of it as a form of media, and of the readership you will reap, should you sew enough seeds of wisdom on a regular basis.

I only really noticed the change in my attitude to writing, and acknowledged the reasons for it, when my agent Lucy asked me to adapt my blog post ‘So am I an Author yet?’ for use in a newspaper.  As I copied and pasted my rather spontaneously-written post into a word document, and frowned at the various coloured lines which appeared under the words and sentences, I realised I would never have sent such a document to Lucy if it were fiction!  I wouldn’t let one person read a fiction draft in that state, let alone hundreds or thousands.  And yet the blog post had been read by 5,000 people in 24 hours!  Over the course of an hour I changed the blog post into a newspaper article, reigning in the personal anecdotes and conversational tone, and making my words more precise and efficient.  I turned from blogger to journalist, and thus my words took on a completely different shape.

And so, as if to illustrate my point, this is where the blog post ends.  Not with a neat summary, as if it were a newspaper article, but with the natural course of conversation, as if I were explaining this all to you out loud!

Let me know what you think – is writing a ‘sport’ made up of different disciplines, or is the writer of a blog post as bona fide an author as he who pens a 600 page novel?

C-C xx

 

12 Comments

Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

The Travel(ling) Writer

The problem with starting a blog like this, and being Freshly Pressed on my third blog post, is that I can’t help but feel like I ought to be constantly churning out Class A non-fiction offerings.  And I definitely believe that my skills lie more in fictional works than in poignant social commentary!

The blog was originally planned as a showcase for some of my fiction work, and the ‘So am I an Author yet?!’ article was more of an apology for being brave enough to tag my own name with the word, rather than the start of a detailed blog about writing.

However, a lot of the comments which have appeared on the blog have inspired me to write about other aspects of writing.

One of the things I have been asked about are my inspirations.  As I discussed in Writing from the Heart, in my opinion the best ‘fiction’ is written when you are writing about something which is perhaps closer to your mind than to your heart.  You need to know about the topic, however at the same time, you need to be able to give that topic emotional distance.  I only realised this several months after writing my first draft of Flicker when I had personal closure on some of the events in my own life which had motivated me to write the book. And as a result, I feel the subsequent, rather different, drafts of the book were far stronger.

But finding that line between the things you know and the things you love, and treading it appropriately, can be an artistic tightrope.

Everyone needs inspirations which they are passionate about.

Which brings me on to my ‘safest’ inspiration.  Something which colours almost everything I write, envokes real passion in me, and yet isn’t something I’m emotionally attached to – like a romance or a bereavement.

Travel.

I’ve spoken before about my belief in role models for children.  It was the reason all those years ago why I wanted to become a Blue Peter presenter.

I believe children need to be inspired.  They need to be educated about all the amazing opportunities which the world has to offer, and shown things outside of the box, so that they can set their own perimeters for their own personal box.

As the child of a marriage  founded on travel (my English father met my Romanian mother whilst travelling across Europe) travel and languages played a heavy role in my upbringing, however I always knew that other children might not be as aware of the world around them as I was.

It is for this reason that travel features so heavily in all of my books.

I write for young adults, and I hope that my love for travel might possibly influence my young readers’ futures.

Flicker only came together as a full story when I was backpacking down the East coast of Australia.  The story itself takes place across Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, with the sequel planned for South America, and future books in North America, Europe and Asia.

The Dream Navigator is set predominantly in Canada, Seattle and Los Angeles.

And even My Ten Future Life touches down in Sydney, Rio, Los Angeles, Texas and New York.

The world is a huge place.  It only seems right to me, to make the stage upon which my characters play out their own personal stories as wide and as exciting as possible.

If I can stage a dramatic showdown on a smoldering volcanic island, or have a chance encounter take place in a backpacker’s hostel on the other side of the world, and in doing so not only enhance the imagery of my story, but also inspire a reader to search out that island or that city, then I feel I’ve fulfilled two childhood dreams.

To be a real author … and to be a role model.

C-C xx

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

Where do I start?

Well I guess, seeing as this is an ‘Author Blog’, I probably ought to start by telling you about the author.  About me 🙂

I write under the name C-C Lester, however, rather quickly, with the help of Google, you will realise my name (or the nickname I have always gone by) is Charly.  I’ll tell you later why I go by ‘C-C’ when I write, but for now let’s focus on the more biographical aspects of my life.

Where do I start?  How about with where I started?!

I actually wrote a mock-up ‘About the Author’ to go with my newest book – The Dream Navigator – just a few weeks ago, and it went something like this ….

‘If my Stage formed before the age of fifteen, it would definitely be The Oval cricket ground, back when it was known as the Fosters’ Oval.  My Library would look like the Sherlock Library at Catz.  My Control Room would be the Whistler Roundhouse, on a blue bird afternoon.  And deep within the Safe of my mind, you would find a simple wooden haberdashery basket, just like the one which sat at my side, as I watched TV as a child.  If the segments unfolded, amongst my other talents would be questionable Bikram yoga capabilities, kick-ass liquid eyeliner skills, and the ability to communicate rather vocally in Spanish without being able to use either the past or future tenses!’

Which, in terms of  Dream Navigation, actually tells you virtually everything about me!

However, seeing as The Dream Navigator is still in ‘unpublished, unsigned, final draft mode’ … I guess I ought to also describe myself in layman’s terms!

I’m a twenty-seven year old, female, British author.

My main focus is teenage fantasy fiction.  And I like to think it’s a genre which I address well.  My most recent ‘rejection’, from the very generous Simon Taylor at Transworld Publishers, had only one criticism.  That my writing was ’emphatically on the YA side of the adult/YA divide’.  Something which, whilst obviously very important to him, in my opinion, wasn’t even a criticism, more a recognition of my firm genre!

My path into writing, like most authors’, has been a convoluted one.

I majored in Law at Cambridge, more because it ‘sounded sensible’ than because I wanted to become a lawyer.

Of my chosen subjects, Media Law was the one which most inspired me, and having realised that the odds on becoming a Blue Peter presenter were far better than those on getting a Media law pupillage, I decided to focus on the former as a career option!

In 2008 I completed a Masters Degree in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Westminster.

During my year in London I was offered several opportunities.  I received a Cosmopolitan Woman of the Year Award that winter, and after receiving the award from none other than Gethin Jones, was actually offered work experience at Blue Peter! Unfortunately a TV work experience placement didn’t fit with the priorities of my course (don’t ask!!) and so I was forced to turn the offer down.

I did, however, go on to complete a month of work experience as a child presenter Mentor at Takeover Radio.  The placement was close to my heart, not only because when I was 14 I pioneered Children’s Radio by Children, as the Breakfast Show Host at Kiddz FM, but also because I have very strong views on role models for children, and being an inspiration to younger generations.

During my Masters I also made documentaries in South Africa, on AIDS orphans and the work of South Africans to combat HIV in their communities, and in the Philippines, on the culture of impunity towards the murder of journalists.

I loosely mentioned my Cosmopolitan Award.  The reason I was honoured with this award was because of my personal strength in the face of adversity. When I was 19 years old, I was orphaned.  It’s not a part of my life that I like to dwell on, however, it is a part of my life which has motivated and inspired me.

Losing my parents at such a young age made me realise how important it is to seize the day.  That there are so many opportunities and challenges that the world has to offer, and you only have one life, so you may as well take on those challenges.

The culmination of this attitude, of the tragic events behind it, and of all the things I learnt during my Masters was ‘Challenge Charly’, a YouTube Channel where I filmed myself completing different challenges around the world.  Very much in the style of my wannabe alma mater ‘Blue Peter’, I tried new sports, completed great feats of endurance, raised money for charity, and pushed myself to the limits of my own fears.  I bungee jumped, sky dived, ran marathons, cycled hundreds of miles, and climbed to Everest Base Camp, all in the name of Challenge Charly.

And so, with my MA firmly under my belt, I decided to take a year to travel the world, and expand both Challenge Charly’s, and my own, horizons.

 

 

I travelled to Australasia, and then on to Patagonia.  From the southern-most point of South America, I took eight months travelling all the way up to Los Angeles.  During this time, I spent countless hours on the back of overnight buses, with nothing but my laptop for company.

It was during these lonely, cramped hours, generally on the left-hand side of the rear of the cheapest ‘semi-cama’ (half-bed) buses, that I began to write my first novel Flicker ….

 

C-C xx

7 Comments

Filed under C-C Lester